Jesse Dykstra

Good Science Writing or Bad Press for Climate Change Scientists? - Shaken Not Stirred

Dec 22, 2010

In a 20 December article from Associated Press (covered by from science writer Seth Borenstein, I get the impression that climate change is assumed to be behind the high disaster toll in 2010. Here is a link to the article, entitled:  2010’s world gone wild: Quakes, floods, blizzards – this was the year the Earth struck back Read it yourself – perhaps you already have. Decide for yourself whether the article represents good science writing.  From my (admittedly) narrow perspective as a natural hazards scientist, I find statements like “The high death toll has less to do with Mother Nature and more to do with mankind. The excessive amount of extreme weather that dominated 2010 is a classic sign of man-made global warming that climate scientists have long warned about” to be confusing. I couldn’t agree more with the first sentence – our … Read More

Flooding, Landslides Force Millions out of Their Homes - Shaken Not Stirred

Dec 21, 2010

Can We Blame Climate Change for Flooding in Venezuela & Colombia? In recent weeks, the wettest rainy season in over 40 years has battered Colombia and Venezuela, with flooding and landslides claiming over 200 lives, forcing millions of people from their homes and inundating valuable agricultural crops. Over 1.6 million (nearly 4% of Colombia total population of 45 million) people have been displaced from their homes, primarily by flooding. Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has publicly blamed global climate change for the recent wet weather, pointing the finger at western-based “criminal capitalism” and overconsumption as the source of this latest natural disaster. Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos has described the events of recent weeks as an unprecedented tragedy for his country. High rainfall isn’t unusual in the region. The mountainous topography of northern South America provides a … Read More

Reflections on Coal Mining - Shaken Not Stirred

Nov 30, 2010

An Important Fossil Fuel Coal is a rock that forms under intense pressure and high temperatures when plant material is buried under younger sediments over periods of millions of years. The resulting mineral has a very high concentration of carbon, and therefore is an important source of energy. Coal is the most abundant fossil fuel on earth, with an estimated 900 billion tons of recoverable reserves. In fact, even with recent advancements of clean energy technologies (such as solar and wind), coal is still the single most important source of electricity on earth. Coal is abundant and relatively easy to extract because it tends to be concentrated in the earth. However, using coal to generate electricity is a very dirty business. Coal mining releases greenhouse gases such as methane, and it is estimated that the burning … Read More

Boulevard of Broken Dreams — Kaiapoi, PtII - Shaken Not Stirred

Oct 12, 2010

The Story of Kaiapoi (Continued) Photo: Jesse Dykstra On one particularly hard-hit Kaiapoi street, I spoke to a resident who expressed an increasingly sense of helplessness as aftershocks continued to tear his home apart. His family feared that they would be unable to live in their home for much longer.  Others in the neighborhood spoke of frustration that they had not yet received any definitive answer from the council on whether or not they would ever be able to rebuild on their land. Many of these people have clearly endured a difficult ordeal, and have significant emotional investment (not to mention financial), in their land. However, from a purely practical perspective, I wonder; should some of these homes be rebuilt at all? That, I suppose, is a question that will be left to the engineers and planners to answer. Lateral Spreading From my perspective of the earthquake damage in Kaiapoi, … Read More

Boulevard of Broken Dreams – Kaiapoi, PtI - Shaken Not Stirred

Oct 08, 2010

Not a Memory Yet Photo: Jesse Dykstra It has now been over 4 weeks since the Darfield earthquake rocked Canterbury, yet aftershocks continue to terrorize the region. Monday night, a magnitude 5 aftershock (the largest since Sept 8th) rattled Christchurch, and early this morning a magnitude 4.4 rumble served notice that the Greendale fault has not yet finished announcing its’ presence.  The aftershocks continue to rattle the frayed nerves of many a sleep-deprived Cantabrian, as well as a few fragile foundations. Personally, although I’m a natural disaster scientist with more than a passing interest in earthquake events, I will be delighted when the aftershocks are finally finished.  Many of us would just like to get on with our lives as best we can, without being constantly reminded of damaged homes and unresolved insurance claims. But for many of … Read More

What’s With Those Aftershocks?! - Shaken Not Stirred

Sep 08, 2010

8 Sept. 2010, 07:49, M 5.1 Aftershock, Ground Shaking Intensity. Source: GNS At 7:49 am this morning, Christchurch and western Banks Peninsula were hammered by a particularly vicious aftershock. This latest tremor had a magnitude of  ‘only’ 5.1, but was centered just a few kilometers from Christchurch, at a very shallow depth of only 6km. As can be seen from the Geonet mapping, the ground shaking intensity from this aftershock would have reached up MM 7 near Christchurch. The short but intense tremor lasted about 10 seconds, but the ground shaking was violent enough to cause more damage (at least to our home), than Saturday’s magnitude 7.1 quake. We had just had the brick chimney and firewall inspected, and deemed sound, yesterday. Both are now in ruin! Some questions that people in Canterbury are understandably asking; when will these … Read More

Liquefaction Explained - Shaken Not Stirred

Sep 08, 2010

For a nice overview of Liquefaction, and why certain areas of Canterbury were more affected by Saturday’s shaking  (Courtesy of 3news).—a-scientific-explanation/tabid/309/articleID/174502/Default.aspx Also, this post from Visibly Shaken,  by Peter Griffin shows an infographic by ECan And finally, also from Ecan, an excellent, detailed infographic on the liquefaction hazard in Canterbury, produced before Saturday’s earthquake: … Read More

What Lies Beneath the Canterbury Plains? A Fault Revealed - Shaken Not Stirred

Sep 07, 2010

This is the second post of a 3-4 part series on the Canterbury Earthquake. Canterbury Earthquake, Pt II Source: GNS Was this Canterbury’s ‘Big One’? When I was shaken out of a deep slumber at 4:36 am last Saturday, I couldn’t help but think that ‘this is the big one’.   The intensity of the shaking was certainly more than anything that I have experienced before. As I initially struggled to come to my senses, to even know if I was in the middle of a particularly vivid dream, it seemed that everything that wasn’t nailed down was jumping around. Over the next 20-30 seconds, the violent shaking and crashing escalated until it was nearly deafening.  But not deafening enough to drown out the roar of the wave that was bearing down on us from the west at tremendous speed.  … Read More

Haiti: 230,000 Deaths. Canterbury: 0 Deaths. Why? Canterbury Earthquake (Pt I) - Shaken Not Stirred

Sep 06, 2010

This is the first post of a 3-4 part series on the Canterbury Earthquake. Canterbury Earthquake, Pt I   Photo: Professor Mark Quigley, University of Canterbury Source: USGS                 When I was contemplating a name for this blog a few weeks ago, I wanted something that would convey the following:  with planning, preparation, community support, and perhaps a bit of luck, it is possible to come through a major natural disaster, without major loss of life, and with the resiliency to build again, better than before.   Little did I know that Christchurch and the smaller communities of central Canterbury would be tested this last Saturday, with the most damaging earthquake since 1931 in Napier.  So how has Canterbury coped with this latest disaster? Remarkably well, it would appear. But there are … Read More

From the Frying Pan into the Flood: Pakistan’s Worst Natural Disaster Unfolds (Pt II) - Shaken Not Stirred

Sep 03, 2010

Unprecedented Precipitation? So why has this monsoon season caused the worst flooding in Pakistan’s history? The overall impression given by the media is that this year’s flood is unprecedented. But is it? On 29 July, 2010, nearly 300 mm of rain fell in parts of the upper Indus catchment. As should be expected during the summer monsoon season, this very heavy rainfall was followed by additional precipitation in the headwaters of Indus catchment. Over one month later, flood waters in the lower reaches of the Indus (where most people live), have only begun to recede. So is such a wet summer monsoon season unheard of? Knowing that it is not unheard of for 10,000 mm of rain to fall over a period of approximately 4 weeks during July and August in some … Read More